Five with Ben Tanzer

New feature, kids. "Five With..." asks five simple questions of someone involved with Pilcrow Lit Fest. Our first guest is a gentleman I've interviewed once before and had as a guest at the Fixx Reading Series. Please welcome Ben Tanzer.

1. What are you working on now?

I believe its public knowledge that I am furiously rehearsing for the Wham! reunion show this summer at Coachella. Things have definitely been stressful between George, Andrew, and I over the years, but we are really looking forward to this. It’s like a new beginning.

I am also continuing to endlessly hype my debut novel Lucky Man , which everyone who reads this should totally buy multiple copies of, and as always am encouraging people to visit my blog “This Blog Will Change Your Life”.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my new novel Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine and getting ready to shop it around so anyone out there who has been dying to work with me, this is your chance. Run, don’t walk.

I also want to be sure to mention that my zine “This Zine Will Change Your Life” is launching April 1st and people can submit work to thiszinewillchangeyourlife (at) yahoo.com. The plan is to run two pieces per month online, there is no link yet, sorry, and then create a hard copy compendium of my favorite pieces at year’s end. I am looking for pieces that run 1200 - 1500 words, 2000 if they rock, and I am open to fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and comix. I like writing that is dark and humorous, and borderline inappropriate, not so much into experimental or speculative fiction, not that I’m all that sure what the latter is.

Finally, as I seek to expand my faux media corporation TBWCYL, Inc., I have started rolling out “This Podcast Will Change Your Life” and I am currently recording podcasts with a literary bent. If anyone out there wants to pitch themselves as a possible participant, is in Chicago, has a free bed and/or is open to buying drinks give me a shout. Please also look for the launch of “This T-shirt Will Change Your Life” and “This Perfume Will Change Your Life,” the latter of which will have an airy cumin and cinnamon scent.

2. What is your favorite part of literary festivals and why?

I love the groupies of course, though please don’t print that if you think my wife is going to read this. Eh, fuck it, go ahead, it’s easier than talking to her. I also like the swag, new MP3 players and cool sunglasses are always nice, and appreciated, and though I had intended not to do any plugging here, thank you Ray Ban. More than these things though, my favorite part of literary festivals is meeting other writers, talking about their work, what they struggle with, their process, listening to them answer questions, that never gets old to me. I love writers and writing, and at festivals it’s all there to be engulfed, fully, wholly, and obsessively, a feast of words and people who love them.

3. Who are your favorite small presses mover/shaker types at the minute?

I am contractually obligated to write that my publisher Manx Media does work so groundbreaking and brilliant that one day epic poems will be written about their prowess. Though seriously, they do rock. That said, I love the kinds of things that Jonathan Messinger at Featherproof and Todd Dills at THE2NDHAND are up to, though I don’t know them all that well. There are others though, somewhat more off the radar, though not for long, that I’ve also had the opportunity to spend time with, people like the 20dissidents crew in Raleigh-Durham and Russ Marshalek at Wordsmiths Books in Atlanta, just cool people, and supportive of me, and writers in general. I also have a lot of love for Nick Ostdick at RAGAD, Pete Anderson at the PeteLit blog, and the Jasons (Behrends and Pettus) at What to Wear During an Orange Alert and the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography respectively, who are doing some great things around independent arts and culture. I also want to give shout-outs to Matt Staggs at Skullring down in Mississippi, the good gentlemen at Wonka Vision magazine in Philadelphia and the rocking Joana Topor who just co-launched The Parlor reading series/podcast love fest here in Chicago which I think is going to be great. All these people take care of and celebrate quasi-obscure, or near obscure, artists, and I love that.

4. Which author do you wish was coming to Pilcrow Lit Fest this year that is not?

I’m sorry Eric Spitznagel of Fast Forward fame won’t be there, but that is purely because I’m feeling lonely. Otherwise, I have had the chance to read five very different books recently and would be geeked to meet any or all of these authors. First off, Rusty Barnes has this short collection of short stories out called Breaking it Down, and its genius, really, the drunken, bastard baby of Raymond Carver and Breece Pancake. There’s also Sherrie Flick who has the killer flash fiction collection out called I Call this Flirting, great stories of love and longing. Jeremy Shipp who wrote the absolutely insane science fiction novel Vacation, which is crazy and awesome, though I have no idea what it’s about. Kelly Moran the author of this romantic and sort of inspirational novel When the Leaves Stop Falling, something I would normally not read, but I connected with her, we swapped books, and I have totally enjoyed it. Corey Mesler who wrote the novel Talk, he is a good friend, albeit a virtual one, and a great guy, or so he says, and Talk is a spot-on novel about male behavior. And finally, Elizabeth Crane, unless of course she’s coming that is, and if she is coming, please let me know so I can get a haircut or something.

5. If you were in charge of picking a theme song for Pilcrow Lit Fest this year, what would it be?

I’m not sure if I am supposed to pick a Smiths song here or what, but I am going to go with “When Irish Eyes Are Burning” by the Ike Reilly Assassination off his recent disc “We Belong to The Staggering Evening.” He’s a local dude and he really rocks. I’m not sure why this guy isn’t huge, but this song is big and fun and I think it would work. Here’s an excerpt:

It doesn’t matter if you’re seventeen
It doesn’t matter if you’re twenty-one
It doesn’t matter if you’re thirty-three
Forgive me baby, Jesus what I done
Forgive me baby, Jesus what I done

I belong to the staggering evening
I belong to the sweltering nights
I belong to the girl that’s leaving
But all we’re gonna do is fight tonight

Nice, right?


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